This week’s question asked what the best coming of ages stories are – in honor of the recently released The Spectacular Now.
get one answer out of the way right now – and that’s The Catcher in the Rye.
The question didn’t ask for coming of age movies, although that is implied, but
J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye was a very important book to me. I read
it a couple of times as a teenager and once in my early 20s – and loved it
every time. I often wonder if I were to read it again now – at 31 – if I would
still love it, or if I would now think Holden Caufield is a spoiled, selfish
brat – I think of the later is what has prevented me from reading it. And from
a TV perspective, you cannot get better than the single perfect season of
Freaks and Geeks.
terms of movies, there are a lot of great coming of age movies. There are a lot
of choices – Peter Yates’ Breaking Away, Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me, Cameron
Crowe’s Say Anything, George Lucas’ American Graffiti, Mike Nichols’ The
Graduate, Jason Reitman’s Juno, Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale, Wes
Anderson’s Rushmore, Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, Charles
Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter, Brian DePalma’s Carrie, Richard Kelly’s
Donnie Darko, Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show, Hayao Miyazaki’s
Spirited Away and the granddaddy of them all Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows.
I wouldn’t argue with anyone who picked any of these movies – more so perhaps
even than most the coming of age film is a very personal choice.
thinking of three slightly more offbeat choices. The first being David Lynch’s
Blue Velvet, which is a coming of age story for Kyle McLaughlin – although when
he gets a glimpse of the adult world, he probably wishes he hadn’t been in such
a rush to grow up. And Laura Dern’s pure innocent grows up a little bit as well
– even discovering a slightly kinky side. Another offbeat choice is Spielberg’s
A.I. – which is about a robot who comes of age – or at least is programmed to
come of age. The film asks some rather quietly profound questions – and remains
Spielberg’s most underrated masterpiece.
answer I’m going with is Alexander Payne’s Election. Setting a coming of age
story in high school is pretty standard – but this time, it’s not the students
coming of age. Reese Witherspoon’s Tracy Flick (still far and away her best
performance) doesn’t learn a damned thing in the movie. I suppose the siblings
played by Chris Klein and Jessica Campbell learn something – but not all that
much. No, Election is about Matthew Broderick’s Mr. McAllister’s coming of age
– although far too late to do him much good. By the time he’s learned his
lesson, he’s lost his wife and his job, and is starting all over again – and in
the hilarious last scene of the movie, he shows that perhaps, he hasn’t quite
grown up just yet. With so many movies these days about overgrown man children
– that for the most part celebrate how wonderful and funny these 30 year old
who act like teenagers are (or perhaps worse, that they simply need the “love
of a good woman” to grow up), Election stands out even more today than it did
back in 1999. And because I’m now in my 30s, it speaks to me more now than
those movies of teenagers reaching maturity.